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You are here: Home Resources E-Newsletter Archive Summer 2010, Issue VII A Journey into Authenticity

A Journey into Authenticity

Get to know one of our Program Coordinators, Emily Pease! This piece focuses on her relationship with Nature and how it has helped her become more herself.

By Emily Pease

In second grade my family moved to a new house which was set back into a large grove of deciduous Iowan trees right in the middle of the city in which I was raised. I remember feeling enchanted by the woods and giving as much of my time to running wild through the brambles chasing fantasies and building forts. At some point, in my early teens, I realized that my hobby of spending time in my favorite place was not “cool.” My friends and many of the other girls in my class were interested in other things; shopping, MTV and boys mostly.

Over time I spent less time in the woods and more time hanging out with my girl friends. We did normal teenage things and I remember enjoying it for the most part. But I also remember feeling torn. There was something about the woods that always called to me. I felt clarity in the woods that I could not access anywhere else and a peacefulness that couldn’t be matched by anything else. But it was easier to mimic the norm than to stay true to myself.

Eventually I didn’t visit the woods at all. I blamed it on the fact that I didn’t have time to “play” but it was also that I was so busy fitting in, which had become my primary goal. I realize now that during this time I forgot a part of me that I truly enjoyed.

When the wilderness finally did invite me back in, after I had moved to the West Coast, I felt sparks of nostalgia for my childhood near the forest. I began to spend as much time as I could close to plants, natural water, mountains and wildlife. Sometimes that meant heading away from the city on a camping trip and other times that meant volunteering in a community garden. Nature began to envelop me; and the more time I spent in it the more I craved being there.

There was, and still is, something about being in nature that draws me closer to my Self. While I stand surrounded by uncomplicated beauty I am able to listen to my inner voice and experience my life with fewer expectations and distractions. This is similar to what I see happen with the young people that I now guide into similar magical places.

What happens in the wilderness is more real to me than anything else I know. When surrounded by an environment that can be a variety of things from beautiful and peaceful to harsh and unrelenting I, as a guest, don’t have any option but to be real myself.

In the book Nature and the Human Soul by Bill Plotkin we are reminded, “Authenticity is a skill as well as a decision.” I’ve already made the decision to continue to chase my true way of being and the practice portion comes most fluidly while living within a community in the backcountry, surrounded by young woman who are also seeking the answer to an age-old question, Who am I?

It does take practice to come at life from an authentic place and the teen years, while personality is being tried on like styles of clothing, is the perfect time to begin. After a few years of observing the transformation that can occur for our participants, it seems to me that our programs are a safe place to begin the assent into authenticity. We create the container for well being, normal distractions are lifted and left behind and the program is framed as a journey into the Self.

Each year I learn something new about my own authentic nature within the presence of young people. When I carefully think about the things I have learned they self-compose in the form of commandments for authenticity. Here is what I have come up with so far:

  • Connect. When I know myself, I am more connected to who I am. When I am more connected to who I am, I am more connected to everything else within my presence.
  • Communicate Openly. When I know myself, I am in contact with my true voice. From here I am able to share my feelings and needs, which allows me to be more available to listen to others with an open heart.
  • Be Content with Me. When I know myself, I can act in ways that show that I am not afraid of my true self. My confidence shines from this place.
  • Be Truthful about my Needs. When I know myself, I am able to distinguish my needs from my wants.
  • Identify with my Larger Self. When I know myself, I do not identify with my smaller self --- that part of me which is interested in roles and opinions for example. Rather I find a deep connection with my true self that is content with what is.
  • Act in Service. When I know myself, I can offer myself as available to serve. Knowing that when I step in to support that I am doing so because it is what I want to do.
  • Let Happiness Prevail. When I know myself, I can be in touch with my true happiness. I find that this is not dependent upon my circumstances or the people around me.

My commandments are not necessarily finished. I am certain that as long as I continue to challenge myself as a guide that my practice of seeking the Real will continue to unfold year after year. I know that my work with Journeys is helping me make the assent into my authentic nature. And I learn it from some of the best teachers… the ever-mysterious wild and courageous youth. 

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